Sri Lanka: Ongoing formation courses for priests, religious sisters and laity working in the pastoral care of the traumatised

Easter Sunday morning 2019 will for ever remain a day of frightful memory. On that day a series of suicide bombs were detonated in three Christian churches and three local hotels in the capital Colombo and elsewhere. Some 300 people lost their lives and over 5000 others suffered, in some cases life-changing, injuries.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo immediately stepped in to help the wounded and their family members, tending the wounds, burying the dead and providing emergency aid of every kind. However, the psychological wounds can often go far deeper, and many remain to this day. And on top of this there is still the lingering fear that a similar atrocity could happen again at any time.

The priests were very often on the front line of this work and had to cope with a near-endless litany of need and immeasurable suffering. „In our country a priest is not merely a spiritual counsellor but at the same time a person to turn to in every kind of social need. Our people obey their religious leaders and respect them more than they do the political leadership. And so we have to train them to cope with this role“, says Father Jude Chrysantha Fernando, who is responsible for social communications within the Archdiocese of Colombo.

Sri Lanka: Ongoing formation courses for priests, religious sisters and laity working in the pastoral care of the traumatised.
Sri Lanka: Ongoing formation courses for priests, religious sisters and laity working in the pastoral care of the traumatised.

At the same time many of the priests were themselves traumatised. Deeply shocked and discouraged, they suffered together with their suffering people. Many were in any case exhausted, after working day and night for weeks on end without any proper rest. One problem that emerged was the lack of competent and well-trained laity, capable of relieving the priests of some of this burden. To address this need, the Archdiocese of Colombo has now established a training programme for priests, religious and laity, with a view to equipping them to deal appropriately with such difficult situations and provide effective help.

Thanks to financial support from ACN, the priests, religious and lay pastoral workers of the archdiocese have now been able to take part in a series of workshops, run by psychologists, experienced priests and other experts. They have learnt how to help people in traumatic situations, supporting and comforting them, and also how to deal with conflicts. They now feel a new and stronger sense of self-confidence and a greater ability to adequately respond to such situations in the future. The participants have also learnt how to avoid falling victim to trauma themselves in these kinds of situations. The programme was made possible thanks to a contribution of 4900 Euros from ACN. Our heartfelt thanks to all our benefactors who have helped!

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